The following is an excerpt from a June 18th issue of the NYT online edition. I posed a question about growth of visual media in the online environment and the role of it’s producers. Assistant Managing editor Michele McNally had this to say.
Talk to the Newsroom: Assistant Managing Editor Michele McNallyThe Changing Role of the Photographer Q. I’m an aspiring multimedia journalist at Stanford who has been inspired by a great many photos that have come through your desk. In the past, the photographer’s voice was heard only through her/his image and her/his public identity was limited to the photo byline. Today, as format becomes more diverse, there are new opportunities to hear from these important contributors. How do you project the role and public voice of the photographer will change as news presentation morphs in the coming years (I’m thinking of more photo-centric presentation projects like the Lens Blog)? Will we start to hear more from the photographer as part of the storytelling team than strictly through her/his images and how will that change the photographer’s place in the newsroom?
— E. Drake Martinet, Stanford Communications and Journalism M.A. ’10 A. Mr. Martinet: I am glad to hear you find the pictures inspiring. I believe that the role of the photographer has already changed. Whereas photographers were always crucial in making events tangible and enhancing storytelling, now they explore a subject on multiple platforms. For years newspapers have had photo columns that were always in the photographer’s voice, now the photographer can do audio over the pictures — truly in his or her own voice. A fine example of this is Bill Cunningham. James Estrin shared a byline with the writer on the story about caring for Alzheimer patients during the night. He took the pictures, recorded the audio and wrote about his experience. A photographer can suggest an idea, do the research, shoot the pictures, and shoot video as Chang Lee did here. The newsroom is an ever-changing place and traditional roles no longer apply. The photojournalist of the future needs to be flexible and ready to go in any direction. Thanks for your good question.